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The Old Geezer
Please Excuse My Absence

I have not blogged since July of 2015 due to the fact that my Lovely Wife was diagnosed with 2 types of cancer. A new case of breast cancer which has metastasized and gone to her bones, mainly her back. She had a mastectomy of her left breast which showed the type of cancer that was in her bones. She has been taking an oral med. every day and she has a port under her skin to receive a liquid med. She has gone through one round of radiation treatments to stop some pain in her back. That gave her GERD and the med for that was nasty tasting. The bone cancer has caused the vertebra in her lower back to pinch her left sciatic nerve causing her pain, numbness and foot drag. She also has skin cancer that has only been partly addressed.

I have been busy taking care of her as the treatments have left her weak and sickly. She can not drive so I have to drive her to her appointments and treatments. I also have to do all the cooking and most of what cleaning we do. So I do not have a lot of time for blogging. However the installment of the review of the Schaeffer Ultrafine 0.3mm pencil marks what I hope will be a new review every month. However some of my future reviews may seem familiar as they may be a review of a pencil or pen that I have reviewed before just in another size due to my limited collection of writing instruments and the economic state of our nation.

I am grateful to George Fox for wanting me to do a review of another one of his pencils. I think that as a reader of my humble blog, may fine of interest as the Schaeffer Ultra Fine is a very unusual pencil.

So please excuse my absence and as a reader of my humble blog I hope that you enjoy the review of this unique pencil.

Coming Soon...

Thank you,

The Old Geezer.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mitsubishi uni SHIFT 0.3mm Drafting Pencil

When I first saw a picture of the Mitsubishi uni SHIFT 0.3mm drafting pencil I was intrigued. I wanted to know just how it worked and just how it compared to the adjustable length sleeve of the Ohto Promecha’s. So when JetPens finally got some in I just had to have one. So I saved my nickels and dimes and along with a gift certificate that I won I was able to get one recently from JetPens. When it arrived I was amazed at just how the pencil works. Normally one of the first things that I do with a new pencil is to break it down into as many components as possible. It’s just a quirk of mine, one that’s going to get me into trouble one day. Well when I got hold of the uni SHIFT I set off breaking it down. All was going fine until I accidentally broke it down beyond what an end user can normally do. That is to say that while the parts can come apart they are not parts that an end user would normally take apart unless he/she were repairing/replacing parts! Oops! That could have been the end of a very good pencil but fortunately for me the mistake was easily revisable. So, for that very reason I’m not going to inform you just how far I disassembled the pencil and just tell you how far you should disassemble the pencil if the need arises.

To do normal maintenance on the pencil, that is clearing a lead jam, it is necessary to remove the end cap and the lead sleeve. The end cap screws into the grip sleeve and is spring loaded. The spring is secured to the end cap so it won’t fall out and get lost. The lead sleeve is stainless steel and white plastic. It unscrews from the clutch assembly, which is brass and white plastic. Once the end cap is removed it is necessary to push the interior mechanism down so the lead sleeve can be removed. Reassembly is the reverse of disassembly. Other than removing the push button to access the eraser this is as much disassembly of the pencil that the average end user should undertake. Any further disassembly may cause the pencil to become inoperative.

The SHIFT series comes in the 5 now standard sizes: 0.3mm, 0.4mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm and 0.9mm. The 0.4mm size is popular in Japan so of course a Japanese manufacturer would produce a pencil in this size. But since not all drafting pencils are made in this size I have yet to obtain one. I’ll stick to the 0.3mm size, thank you. And that’s just the size that I bought. The pencil comes in silver with a colored accent, light blue being the accent color for the 0.3mm pencil (not the ISO standard yellow, thank you Mitsubishi). The colors for the rest of the set are green (0.4mm), blue (0.5mm), orange (0.7mm) and red (0.9mm). The 0.5mm pencil also comes in 3 additional body colors, black, red and white, all with smoke as an accent color. The pencils also come with a removable instructions sticker showing just how to hide and expose the lead sleeve.

Some technical details: The SHIFT is 143mm long, making it of average length. The grip diameter is 10mm with the body being only slightly smaller in diameter at 9.2mm. The pencil is in the medium-heavyweight range weighing in at 17 grams, which puts it up there along with the Alvin Draft/Matic and the Koh-I-Noor Rapidomatic. But being a medium-heavyweight isn’t a bad thing because the pencil is bottom heavy, always a good thing in a heavier weight pencil. The balancing point (of the pencil in writing mode) is approximately 86mm form the end of the push button, just above the nicely knurled grip. It takes 2 clicks of the push button to produce ample lead to write with, any more and there is an increased risk of lead breakage. So that’s it for numbers, on to other aspects of the pencil.

In appearance the uni SHIFT is an attractive pencil, especially in silver, with its straight, almost futuristic lines! Only the grip area brakes up the sleekness of the body, which only adds to the pencils good looks and appeal. When in writing mode the only accent color is a light blue plastic ring/nut just above the pocket clip, which by the way is not removable under normal circumstances. When in hide mode the short light blue plastic inner connecting pipe that bridges the gap between body and grip can also be seen. The grip is very nicely knurled in a fine diamond pattern and affords the writer a very good surface to hold onto. Below the grip is the end cap, which steps down twice before reaching the lead sleeve, when present. The push button is the full-sleeve mushroom type that is the same diameter as the body. There is no lead grade indicator, but I consider lead grade indicators a nice functional aesthetic feature but not a necessary one. Strangely there is a counter bored hole in the top of the push button! What purpose this serves other than aesthetics is a mystery. On the side of the pencil in dark gray print are the words “uni SHIFT 0.3”. In raised letters is the word “JAPAN” on the opposite side of the pencil at the top of the body. The metal parts, the grip, end cap, pocket clip, push button neck and lead sleeve are either chromed metal or stainless steel. The lead reservoir is cavernous enough to hold about 2 dozen leads but like the Kuru Toga there is a bottleneck to lead insertion: a tiny opening under the eraser instead of the gaping mouth of most drafting pencils. This makes putting lead into the pencil a little slow.

The full name of the pencil is the uni-ball Shift Pipe Lock Mechanical Pencil for Drafting. Now that’s a mouthful! But it is sort of descriptive. It describes, in a way, the mechanism by which the lead sleeve (pipe) is hidden. Now I am only aware of 2 other ways a modern drafting pencil hides a lead sleeve. One is where the lead sleeve itself is movable. This is usually housed in the end cap and slides within the end cap. The jaws of the clutch push the lead sleeve out and when they retract the lead sleeve stays in place, held in place by friction. The sleeve has to be retracted, hidden, by hand. Because the lead sleeve is not fixed and stable it can move causing lead breakage. The other is where the lead sleeve is fixed to the inner tube, surrounding the clutch mechanism. The grip is then twisted, moving up or down, exposing or hiding the lead sleeve. Since the lead sleeve is “fixed” in relation the clutch mechanism the lead sleeve is much more stable and much less likely to cause problems. I much prefer this type of sleeve hiding to the sliding sleeve method.

Now comes along Mitsubishi, the company that brought us the uni Kuru Toga Auto-Rotating Lead mechanical pencils. Now they have a new twist on the idea (pun intended) of the hidden lead sleeve. Instead of moving the lead sleeve or the grip they designed the SHIFT to move the upper body, and the inner workings of the pencil, up and down, retracting and exposing the lead sleeve. The body locks in either position so the pencil doesn’t accidentally shift (pun intended) during use. The pencil comes in the hidden mode (my term, not theirs). The body is locked in the up position. To expose the lead sleeve the body is twisted slightly to the left, unlocking it, pushed down to where it meats the grip, then twisted to the left again, locking the body together with the grip. The pencil is now in writing mode (again, my term, not theirs). To hide the sleeve once again simply reverse the procedure. The pencil locks into place with an audible click. There are 2 springs in the pencil, one in the body and one in the end cap that push against the inner workings of the pencil and force the body up when hiding the lead sleeve. All in all a clever design and a stable one as well.

The fine knurling on the grip is well done and presents the user with a nice grip surface. Being bottom heavy the pencil sits nicely in the hand and it writes almost effortlessly. It feels good in the hand, being sturdy and substantial. It really is a pleasure to write with. This is in part due to the secure locking mechanism that keeps the pencil together, giving it a good solid feel. Under the push button is a black eraser, good for only the slightest of mistakes, such as periods, commas, quotes, etc. But Mitsubishi has left out the clean out rod, a trend that I feel is a mistake, so if you get a lead jam, you’re on your own.

Bottom line: The Mitsubishi uni SHIFT pencil has a lot to offer the professional and non-professional alike. It’s a good solid pencil that’s been cleverly designed and constructed so it won’t poke a hole in your chest when you keep it in your breast pocket. Available from JetPens.com. Get one today!

Thanks to JetPens for the use of the photo.


Greg said...

Tried to buy one of these last week but they were out of the 3mm - you must have bought the last one - so ordered a 4mm instead as I have never tried that caliber. Agree on the sliding sleeve - I have had a several couple of Pentels that utilized this design and I generally prefer the mechanism in my Pentel Graphgear or a fixed sleeve for everyday use. Glad to hear that I am not the only one that enjoys collecting all sorts of writing instruments. After everything is said and done though, as far as all-around bang for the buck goes, I am not sure that anything beats a good Bic ballpoint - granted sometimes you have to toss out some clunkers to get to the really smooth ones, but I am sure that you can appreciate how well they would stand up to a serious triplicate carbon paper session!

Some fav's:
Rotring Tiku
Rotring 600 & 700 fountain pens
Lamy Swift
Montblanc Quickpen
Pentel Graphgear 1000 0.3
Waterman Preface 0.5

Gunther said...

Thank you for the detailed and informative review of that unusual and interesting pencil. I have bought myself some variants too (0.5/0.4) and was a little confused about the fact that the pencil has to be turned left to lock - I am used to lock something with a right turn. Besides that, I am not sure about the mechanism's durability. But I like the pencil, especially because of its clean, technical look and the special twist (to use your pun).

My favourites are the functional pencils, e. g. Pentel AccuGraph PG1804, Pentel P205, STAEDTLER 925 35 05, Rotring 600 and Pilot H-1095.

kiwi-d said...

Yep, I think I will put this one on my "Pencils To Purchase" list.

B2-kun said...

Just got mine in, and it made a great first impression. Detailed reviews like this blog, make informed purchasing decisions so much easier.

Germ said...

Great post, and my apologies for not checking the blog in a while.


Anonymous said...

I like this pencil a lot, but watch out the barrel dosen't spring back at you if you didn't lock it properly - this has happened to me a couple of times. Also no-one has mentioned the Nano-Dia lead it comes with, very nice and smooth and dark (but is this loaded with 'B' or 'HB'- you never know.)

2 1/2P

Wynne and Wes said...

in the post you said "When in hide mode the short light blue plastic inner connecting pipe that bridges the gap between body and grip can also be seen."

is that blue sleeve see through

Anonymous said...

Hello, I'm afraid I may accidentally have broken mine while trying to fix it! The shift mechanism became lose, and when I attempted to disassemble it, I think i pulled apart something important. Namely, the metal sleeve doesn't seem properly fixed on the pencil anymore. Any suggestions on further disassembling it?